DAVIE, Fla. — A lethal plant hopper species is slowly killing our Florida landscape of palm trees. Meanwhile, there are wood-decaying fungi causing several urban tree species to develop root and trunk rot affecting their stability.
While scientists at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) are working on identifying and finding solutions to these conditions and invasive pests, the need for funding is constant as is the research.
The Florida Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) is infusing much-needed grant dollars in the amount of $320,000 over the next three years so that there is a better understanding, faster diagnoses, better treatments, and perhaps even cures for these complex illnesses depleting our urban tree canopies.
“We are proud to award this year’s grants to two UF/IFAS researchers to advance their research and programs on lethal bronzing in palm trees and wood-decaying fungi,” said Norm Easey, CEO of the Florida Chapter of ISA.
Brian Bahder, assistant professor of vector entomology at Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center at UF/IFAS is receiving $150,000 over the next three years to work on control strategies for lethal bronzing. This is in addition to a $90,000 grant already awarded by Florida Chapter of ISA to Bahder’s research which is in its third year.
Lethal bronzing is a bacterial disease (called a phytoplasma) that is transmitted by a plant hopper causing significant palm losses throughout much of Florida. Once infected, the palm leaves lead to wilting, and eventually death. There are 16 species of palm trees currently effected by the bacteria.
“The support I have obtained from the Florida Chapter of ISA is absolutely crucial to my research program and will go a long way towards fighting LBD in Florida and helping to save our state tree,” said Bahder.
Jason Smith, an associate professor of forest pathology and State Forest Health Extension Specialist at UF/IFAS, is the recipient of two grants, one in the amount of $100,000 for the next three years to determine what fungi destabilize trees. Smith has been awarded an additional $40,000 grant to develop a photographic guide that depicts the types of fungi that decay trees. The guide is designed for arborists who regularly assess trees in the field.
“The research we were able conduct on Ganoderma, as a result of Florida ISA’s funding, has had a profound impact on our understanding of how the fungi decays wood. It also furthered our understanding of one Ganoderma species distribution in North America,” said Smith.
ISA is a professional organization dedicated to providing continuing education for arborists, to promoting tree care research, and to serving tree care consumers around the world. The Florida Chapter of ISA shares this same dedication with additional commitment to serving the needs particular to Florida’s professional arborists and tree care consumers. Its mission is to promote the scientifically based practice of arboriculture through research, education and public awareness.
“ISA is a membership association of arborists,” said Norm Easey, Florida Chapter of ISA CEO. “Our member arborists work in a variety of fields including commercial, municipal, consulting, and utility arboriculture plus in the field of education and other fields in which professionals work with trees. ISA provides a platform for them arborists to have certification and continuing education. Florida ISA also conducts research on topics that are of interest to our members in the field of arboriculture here in Florida.”
The Florida Chapter of ISA is no stranger to UF/IFAS. It has been a strong supporter of research at UF/IFAS. It has pledged more than $1 million for research and the teaching of arboricultural sciences classes in UF/IFAS College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The arboriculture endowment, which helps fund positions such as this, was created in 2009, Easey said.
“Through the years ISA has supported research in the areas of tree risk assessment, Ganoderma, impacts of root removal on tree stability, and tree support systems impacting the likelihood of tree failure,” added Easey.
Florida ISA also maintains an endowment at UF/IFAS that supports teaching, research and Extension programs at UF/IFAS, exclusively for the arboriculture program. In addition to making an annual $100,000 installments to the Arboriculture Endowment, Florida ISA also recently delivered $3,000 in climbing gear for the UF/IFAS CALS students researching arboriculture in the department of environmental horticulture.